In most industrial machine vision applications, cameras and image processing systems are set up in a well-controlled environment. The inspection procedure includes positioning the object in front of a camera at a never changing distance. Using professional illumination equipment, the lighting conditions are also kept constant so neither camera nor its lens need to adapt to a changing environment.
However, machine vision technologies are increasingly being implemented in non-industrial areas such as traffic monitoring, security and surveillance, sports and entertainment. These new application fields often involve tracking moving objects such as human beings moving freely in an open environment. Sometimes the camera itself is fitted on a moving vehicle and needs either to focus on one fixed target point or to perform a 360° scan of its surroundings.
Thinking Around The Corner: Fixed Camera With Mobile Optics
For applications requiring multi-directional vision, conventional systems rely on mounting the camera to capture the images on special equipment designed to change its orientation: turntable, pan/tilt system or gimbal. These mechanisms are designed to turn and/or tilt the camera in order to cover as wide a scope as possible. However, they face mechanical restrictions as far as the speed and the precision of the movement is concerned. Besides, frequently moving the camera along with its cable may damage the hardware in the long term.
With RobotEye , Ocular Robotics of Hurstville, Australia designed a completely new concept of high-precision and highly flexible vision system with unprecedented freedom of motion. The originality of RobotEye is that the three-dimensional movement is limited to the optics while the camera itself remains fixed. “RobotEye relies on an innovative optical path that can move the aperture in different directions extremely rapidly. The image signal is conveyed to a stationary image sensor within the system”, says Mark Bishop, founder and CEO of Ocular Robotics.
Because the camera itself does not move, the system is extremely robust and versatile. RobotEye has been designed to operate in harsh outdoor environments (IP65) at temperatures ranging from -20°C to up to 70°C. The sensor, all drive components and control electronics are stationary and protected in the system enclosure. The low mechanical stress concept ensures a very high durability at high levels of performance. The system optical port can be fitted with any C-mount camera so it can be easily adapted to specific application requirements with the most suitable camera model.
RobotEye combines extremely high slew speed with high acceleration rates as well as an outstanding accuracy in meeting the requested vantage angle. Because of these mechanical capabilities, the system can perform a wide variety of tasks such as tracking a fast-moving object (ballistics), focusing on a fixed point and stabilizing the image when mounted on a moving vehicle or even both at the same time. Coupled with a head-mounted display into a head-slaved system, RobotEye enables a human operator to remotely inspect a dangerous area such as a fire, a hazardous area or a battlefield without being exposed to danger him/herself. The RobotEye’s optics smoothly follows the slightest movements of the operator’s head in real time without any lag.
Camera Partnership with Allied Vision Technologies
When selecting high-quality cameras for the RobotEye system, Ocular Robotics decided to team with Allied Vision Technologies. All the software applications developed for RobotEye use the AVT GigE API and although the system may be used with any C-mount camera, Ocular Robotics recommends AVT GigE Vision cameras to their customers for optimal performance. With the Prosilica GC, Prosilica GE, Prosilica GX and Manta ranges, Allied Vision Technologies’ GigE camera portfolio offers a very wide choice of sensors and features to meet individual needs.
“GigE Vision cameras from Allied Vision Technologies were the best choice for us for many reasons”, explains Mark Bishop. “One of them is the excellent API which offers a very good programming platform for our software solutions. Another one is the high quality and reliability of AVT cameras. Our customers are in defense, security and heavy duty applications so we need cameras that can cope with very harsh environments”.
From Surveillance Drones to the Tennis Court
Typical applications for the RobotEye are systems in which robots or unmanned vehicles are used to explore dangerous areas, whether on the ground, in the air, on or under water or even in space. However, the high-speed tracking capabilities may be interesting for other civil applications such as sports broadcasting as the system is able to track very fast moving objects such as a tennis ball on a Grand Slam court.